in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Friday, September 28, 2007

All Hat and No Pants (pitbull on the pantleg)

When we say something is ‘all hat and no pants’ this is usually not a compliment. It’s a judgment about something that looks as it should but limps where the lacking counts. Pants themselves may be signs of an effort to achieve the pleasure of satisfaction, but ‘pants’ is the bottom of the barrel, as the phrase ‘a complete load of pants’ shows. But even as we dismiss pants, we remain obsessed with them – we have become panthounds, always always sniffing after a bit of leg. Dogs need four, but humans are doubly depraved: a mere pair of legs is enough to keep us erect and on the hunt.

What our contemporary trouser fixation also shows is our worship at the church of latter day confusion. Like a leg-humping Cocker, we are panting up the wrong leg. And while we remain fixated on the pants at hand, we’ve inevitably forgotten what’s going on upstairs. We’ve become all pants, and no hat – a society that has forgotten its hat for so long it is now no longer able to wear it. The very sight of a real hat among the young would cause an outbreak of fear and loathing: even if kids these days knew what one was, they wouldn’t know where to put it. You can imagine the headlines on the day of his promised return:

Headline: ‘The Cat in the Hat has Come Back!’ (or maybe just ‘Cat in Hat: Back’)

Kids (these days): The Cat in the… Hat? What’s hat?

Imagine the contemporary confusion of ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’. In our disenchanted, hatless world, who knows what he would have mistaken her for – this season, it would probably be leggings, or those godawful spray-on jeans. ‘The K’d up Coolsie Who Mistook the Girlfriend he had Mistaken for a Hat for Leggings and Adicolors’ – now that’s a mouthful – let’s thank the man upstairs we weren’t there to see that case of mistaken identity in the second-degree, whose sordid acting out would have to look something like George W’s ‘ten gallon twat’ message to the voters during his governorial campaign a decade or so in the state of Texass:

‘I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity’.

Oh, you poor, sad, pant-munching pitbulls. Whatever happened to you? Some say that it’s mans erection that distinguishes him among the apes, but the truth is that it’s hats that have, until recently, distinguished us among ourselves. And with the final piffing of the lids, we have doffed our caps for the last time to any kind of legitimate authority. We no longer know who we are, because we no longer know who ‘they’ are.

Once upon a time, real men wore hats, while men with authority wore really, really stupid hats. Silly hats were serious business. The bishop’s mitre, the judge’s wig, the palace guard’s bearskin, the king’s crown – the sillier the hat, the more serious the business. Back in the good old days, if you were brought before a panel of men, the ludicrousness of their headwear was a fairly accurate indication of how much trouble you were in. If you were ‘judged’ by nine old men wearing truly preposterous hats, you were doomed.

But with the removal of the silly hat from public life, the distinction they lent the wearer has likewise disappeared. These days, we resort to saying ‘(s)he wears the pants’. It’s something we admit with more resignation than reverence. Why obey the pantwearer? Out of love? No! Just because of your lowdown panty needs. If you want to get into someone’s pants, you’ve got to allow them to wear them first – hence. But maybe it’s not even for our benefit, so much as just indifference and boredom – because there’s nothing else to do, and no-one else to obey, simply due to the fact that there’s no-one left willing or able to wear silly hats anymore.

Maybe this is why people are increasingly drawn back to the extremes of religion and tradition. For your average ‘hatless wonder’, (who could never wear the silly hat; because the silly hat would end up wearing them) the sight of a bunch of men not only wearing dresses, capes and stupid hats but pulling it off with splendid calm evokes a remnant of that ancient awe our ancestors must have felt at the sight of two odd foot of be-jewelled bearskin on top of a bearded Pharisee. Maybe the commitment of Islamist terror groups to jihad is not based on the prospect of virgins in the afterlife at all, but a quiet reverence for the successful wearers of silly hats. For these are men who are not only willing to die for their cause, but are willing to do so while sporting (and supporting) silly hats, hats that actually suit them.

If this is true, then war the war on terror will never be won by the US until such time as its leaders realise: dying for the flag is nothing compared to dying for the hat. They don’t need a ‘strategy’, they need a really, really, really stupid hat. Until they know that, they will remain as they are: witless, hatless, dogged rutters despondently trying to find a leg to hump somewhere on the barren expanse Osama’s robe-covered pantleg.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sexy, sexy guineapigs (is it all over my Facebook?)

I saw a funny thing the other day. I was riding my bicycle down Swanston St, avoiding the Zombielike gaggles of international students who seem to have interpreted the new bike lane as ‘what you stumble onto’ when you’re sick of the boring old footpath. But this tram said something that nearly made me prang it without having one of the ‘full-fee undead’ stagger into my path. It was a piece of government propaganda, and it read:

‘Talking online can lead to stalking online’.

Now, I was someone who started fragging their friends when I was just fourteen, around about the same time as I was racking pornos from the local newsagent to sell at school for a profit: enough to buy fags. Remember fragging? You kill your friends, well, virtually. Over a modem. It’s a game – I think it was Duke Nukem. Or some early version of Quake that my 486 could just barely handle. It was hardly Warcrack, but it was all we had (along with the B&H Extra Mild from the porno proceeds) so we took it for what it was and loved it as we found it.

Flash forward a year or two though, and a more adult realisation hit me: if you can’t get laid doing it, what’s the point? I fragged and I fragged, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t getting me any(where). In fact, a lot of things are rendered absurd if you remove the whiff of coitus… try nightclubbing when you’re in a loving relationship and go there ‘for the music’ – idiot. Basically, the problem was precisely that fragging online didn’t lead to shagging offline – and so I hung up my joystick and headphones, picked up the cordless phone, and dialled her number.

In the years before Facebook, Myspace or even blogs, online networking was a thing of nerds being orcs in order to get pussy (and a lower armor class). Blogging online lead to flogging online, at best. Or new chainmail. And ‘orc pussy’, as everyone knows, all too often turns out to be nothing more than some nerd(’s) arsehole. Who knows, maybe that’s your thing. Beauty is The Eye of the Beholder?

A few years later, it’s precisely arsehole that becomes the plat du jour, with sites like offering the young and the breastless (as well as ladies who munch) the opportunity to hook up anonymous sex faster than you can get from shared postcode to postcoitus. Suddenly, chumming online lead directly to bumming offline, and the internet began to make sense for people who don’t paint miniatures when they’re not battling dragons or being bullied by the ‘all too real’ trolls of the playground.

Five years later, and Myspace offers playmates a’plenty – it is entirely possible conduct a diverse and interesting sex life through the internet. For many, it’s the first time that such a thing has been facilitated. Fact is that until the internet came ‘of age’, for the majority of people, it was actually really, really difficult to get laid. But now, there’s so many likeminded people online that every monster can find its equal. Depending on your perversion, talking online can lead to porking offline (bushpigs, mud-trolls, you name ‘em), just as thanking online can lead to spanking offline.

Facebook takes the fantasy one step further, bringing back into spunking distance all your old flames and half-cocked romances from yesteryear. It’s the ultimate ‘wait and see’ approach: you keep them up your sleeve, they keep writing on your wall, and who knows? All under the pretence of friends, you nurture new secret longings as formerly unavailable (s)ex partners suddenly (and simultaneously) add themselves to the deck of question marks and long shot money shots. If you’re in a standard relationship, your monogamy is (mostly, still) not-negotiable: there’s only one person you’re allowed to sleep with. If you’re single, there’s probably still not very many, and this is the depressing ‘reality’ of being a free agent: once you remove the socially unacceptable and those repulsed by the sight of you, you’re usually only left with a couple… that’s right, very the person you’re sleeping with, if you still are. But once this does become a depressing thought, provided you have Facebook, you just hit on everyone. Even if it’s a hundred to one shot, Facebook means you’re bound to hit it off with someone. The numbers fantasy trumps the ugliest reality. And from what I gather of the growing carnage and excitement mounting around me, this is something that people find more exciting than frightening. We are in the grips of a world-historic social experiment, with ourselves and all our (potentially) loved ones the sexy, sexy guinea pigs. Ooh, err.

In fact, the other side of the government’s ‘stranger danger’ campaign is that a lot of people want to be stalked, in a certain way. By the right person. Gently. Lovingly. To them, the worst thing, the truly unimaginable horror, is not that ‘somebody is watching’ , it’s that ‘nobody is watching’. If nobody is out to get you in 2007, then you’re either not online, you have a disease, or you’re one of those weirdest of perverts who gets off on being lonely. As I’m sure little Johnny himself will discover, once he becomes a private citizen with a computer and time on his hands, ‘Big Brother is watching you’ is not the forewarning of 1984, it’s the fantasy of 2007.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Square Mint, Round Hole

In the late eighties, Allen’s ran a campaign for Kool Mints. The ad was full of lipsticked mouths popping those fresh-tasting lollies. It was captivating. But then there was the tag line:

‘You can’t put a square mint in round hole.’

Now, to a seven year old who’d been a regular consumer of Minties for some years, this came as quite a shock. I was, in fact, just in the process of polishing off a lollybag I’d been given on leaving a friend’s birthday, and among the other sweet things (toxic bananas, snakes, milk bottles, and even a redskin) were several Minties. What could this mean? In what sense was it possible that I couldn’t put a square mint in my round hole? Was my taste for both Minties and Kool Mints somehow abominable? Would my ‘unnatural’ tastes somehow ruin my health? Was I still loveable? Would I mutate? Would I die?

It was a shock to thought, and for some reason it has never left me. I’ve been unpacking and re-packing the message of that ad ever since. A year or two later, I discovered that Kool Mints aren’t round, they’re spherical, and that Minties, when it’s not summer, are a kind of blobby bricklike pellet. So what were those copywriters trying to say? Not only had those delicious, minty shapes lost an entire dimension, but, according to them, it was somehow unnatural and wrong to enjoy what had always tasted perfectly delicious and caused me no obvious harm. Was it that you couldn’t do it? No. What the Kool Mints ad was really saying was not ‘You can’t put a square mint in a round hole’ but that, on some level, you really shouldn’t. Because… ‘we say it’s unnatural’.

Ten years after the initial impact of all this misinformation I was waiting at a tram-stop. It was one of those late January Melbourne scorchers, one so hot that even the most stubborn ‘round’ Kool Mint would not only stick to, but melt into, the nearest ‘square’ Mintie. A sticky lolly afternoon, if ever there was one. My shirt was half-soaked with sweat, and the clipboard in my hand was getting slippery in my clammy mits. To make matters worse, I was sharing space with two incredibly skanky English backpackers, each with a slippy clipboard of their own. They both stank of BO, booze, smeg and patchouli.

It was that bad: I had sunk as low as it’s possible for a gainfully employed person to go – I was selling long-distance telephone contracts, door-to-door. A friend of mine, and a good one at that, had just come back from backpacking around Australia, where desperation had led him to contemplate the horrible work I was now, for some stupid reason, involving myself in. Who knows why? I know why: we were young, we needed goon, and we had no money.

With no training, no authorisation and no experience, it was possible within the space of hours to be added to the horde of Dutch, Israeli, Irish and British backpackers doing their best to keep themselves in the manner to which their greasy locks and lice had become accustomed: at the bar (on dollar pots night) and in bunkbeds, tally-hos and rubber johnnies.

There we were: me and these two skanky Stellas. One of them looks at this muscle Mary at the tramstop on the other side of St Kilda road and says: ‘Look at them. It’s disgusting, innit.’
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
And she told me, in graphic Cockney (with more emphasis on the cock) what she thought of ‘them’, and what they apparently like to do to each to each other of a sticky summer evening.
I said: ‘Well, if they like doing that, then you’re probably not going to be involved, so what do you care?’
‘Well,’ she said, indignantly, ‘It’s not natural, innit?’
Suddenly, my brain was full of a cavalcade of mints, of all shapes and sizes, streaming like bullets out of my mouth in her direction accompanied a brainlooped quote from the Simpsons, screeching ‘Freshen yer drink, govna?’
I recovered, and asked her, ‘Don’t you use contraception? And smoke? And didn’t you fly here? On a plane?’ (I tactfully omitted what I knew her mate told me about her pole-dancing, and probably pole-smoking past – initially as an [enthusiastic] amateur, if her chum could be believed. For someone who’d sucked a such a lot of cock, she sure had a weird attitude to it)
‘Yeabut, that’s different, innit?’ She retorted, just as the tram pulled in. We spent the rest of the afternoon bothering people in their own homes, trying to get them to sign up (barely legally) to something they already had for a similar price. In ‘the industry’, it’s called a churn: and boy, it was enough to give you indigestion. Like a whole stomach full of something… unnatural.

Needless to say, the next day all the English backpackers wasted no time in expressing surprise: ‘I didn’t know you were gay, man – but that’s alright, I’m cool with that.’ This is what I heard, in variations, while we were handing in our completed ‘churns’ from yesterday and re-stocking our clipboards. ‘Neither did I…’ I replied, ‘But you learn new things all the time, working here, don’t you.’

So Stella was choked up with hate – and given what I knew about her past (assuming she wasn’t just another victim of the hostel rumour mill), we can say that it’s probably a rebuke about those things she’s done (with men far less fit, gentle and attractive) in the dark corners of her Saturdays past. But why say it’s unnatural?

It’s simple: natural claims are legitimate claims. So ‘unnatural acts’ are illegitimate. Natural activities are reasonable activities. Unnatural pastimes are unreasonable pastimes… you get the picture? For the record: human behaviour is conventional. It doesn’t matter if Onelove is on Friday or Saturday, as long as all the munters know when and where to queue and pop. Or as a Pakistani Muslim taxi driver told me the other night (and I think he was quoting this from somewhere else): ‘You Aussies have beer. We have beards.’ Fine, but conventions are fragile to begin with at least. They need something to lock them in, to make them difficult to disagree with. They need to be naturalised. In becoming ‘natural’, they become part of the order of the universe – and so they become sturdy, and hard to disagree with… Never forget, the way it is is the way it is because that’s the way it is, because that’s naturally the way it is. And if people think otherwise? Well then, make laws and arm a group of people to enforce them, and beat or lock up anyone who disagrees. (Oh, and make sure you remove your identification, so they don’t get you on camera doing it).

So this is what I want you to do. I want you to go out and buy a packet of both Minties and Kool Mints… I want to you get one of each, and I want you to put both of them in your mouth, and suck on them. Suck on them, enjoy the delicious flavour, and think about every dingbat who’s ever stared at your tits; sneered at the people you love; or tried to convince you that the way they hate is somehow part of the cosmos. Eat both whole packets all together at once, and then go and find the person who said those things, and do what comes naturally after ingesting so much ‘unnatural’ material: vomit all over them.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Remember to Forget to Remember (old school cows)

As a young man, Nietzsche was jealous of cows. It wasn’t their splendid horns or udders that moved him to fits of envy, or their ability to enjoy (for a second time) the food they regurgitate back into their mouths. It’s just that, well, they don’t remember. Without any sense of Tuesday or ten years ago, cows live a life that’s neither boring nor painful: a life that could be loosely described as happy. As Nietzsche himself wrote, “A human being may well ask an animal: 'Why do you not speak to me of your happiness but only stand and gaze at me?' The animal would like to answer, and say: 'The reason is I always forget what I was going to say' – but then he forgot this answer too, and stayed silent: so that the human being was left wondering...”

Lumbered with memories, we humans are unable to forget and condemned to remember, so most of the time, our “existence is only an uninterrupted has-been, a thing that lives by negating, consuming and contradicting itself.”

But bingeing changes all that. Booze, drugs, whatever your poison, they’ll wash away painful memories in the sweet tides of oblivion. When some old Dig reminds you irritatingly that ‘A man is not a camel’, what he neglects to mention is that us munters may not be camels, but we’re not far from Nietzsche’s cows. But non-remembering not confined to munters. I just got back from a school reunion, and the weird interplay of remembering/forgetting is something that will stay with me… at least until the booze starts flowing again. That’s why you drink a toast to absent friends… but is present company excluded?

“I feel like I’ve definitely done damage to my short-term memory,” an ex-raving school friend of mine confessed. He’s now a psychologist. “I sit in a room with a patient and suddenly, I forget their name…” He comforts himself by remembering another friend (who forgot the date of the reunion, and couldn’t make it) whose short-term memory has been so bad for so long that he started recording every single drug he’s ever taken, apparently something approaching 1,000 units… This is a horrible thing to want to remember, especially when you still can’t remember the number of the rehab clinic, or you’ve walked into the bedroom with a kitchen knife (again) but can’t remember why…

But apart from short-term memory loss, most of my old school ties had done other kinds of damage to themselves: getting the wrong one knocked up; becoming bull-necked and boring; getting chained to some ‘hell hath harbour views’-type job they seemed to want to resign from… and yet were resigned to… or had even re-signed to… or finding God – good lord. Why do they call it ‘seeing the light’ when it’s much more like a warm, soothing (and sanctimonious) darkness? Ignorance is righteous bliss. God seems to have all the effectiveness of crawling under blankets to stop boogymen (what you can’t see can’t hurt you, right?). But that’s the funny thing about oblivion. For something so frightening, it’s scarily popular. And back at the reunion, oblivion was chilled in bottles, marked CUB.

I got panicked seeing everyone standing there, with their wine and their name-tags. But only half of the panic was because of the memories. The other half was because of the complete lack of memories. Truth was, I didn’t really know who most of these people were. I barely recognised them, even with the name-tags on. Even after they told me who they were (again). So I kept drinking. It worked: by 3am, a wonderful thing had happened. All the people I couldn’t remember had gone… somewhere… home? Back to school? To be replaced by my close group of friends, who, because of all the drinking (just like old times) I could barely remember (just like old times). It was… um… just like old times… stop me if I’ve told you this one before… sorry, what did you say your name was again?

And by the time it was within sipping distance, oblivion had become incredibly cheerful. It was a thirsty, tasty thought. Yes – the fact that the memories of a huge chunk of my life ended up teetering between twenty standard drinks and total personal oblivion was a source of great comfort to me… yes… the grass really was greener on ‘the other side’… It’s true. By 3:30 I was as happy as a cow in the sunshine of the smokeless pub (whose spushy carpet smelt like vomit)… it’s just that I just can’t remember why.

The Author

[almost nothing] about me

My photo
PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.